|'The Championship Team' 1951 Latty Lions, Part 3|
By GERALD SINN
Special to the Progress
Part 3 of 3
In the very next year, in 1952, Coach Charles Newton took the Latty Lions to a second consecutive Paulding County championship. His first five were again Larry Adams, Dick Elston and Paul Pease, plus Carlos Turner and freshman forward Dennis Doster.
I was a sophomore that year. As a point-of-interest, star Dick Elston fouled out in the last second of the big game, and a snappy Grover Hill team tied the score up at 48-48. I can still see the coach looking down our bench and calling my name: “Gerald, in for Dick.” I hit a 12-footer and a five-footer for four points in the overtime. We won our championship by one point, 52-51. Sixty years later, I’m still saying, “Thanks, Coach.”
THE AYERSVILLE PILOTS
Coach Newton didn’t stop coaching, though Latty High closed its doors in 1952. The Pilots from Ayersville picked up our “pilot” – how’s that for irony. They may have not known he was a WWII pilot, but they did get the right man. Charles Newton won games for them. The Pilots’ previous years’ records were dismal, then a different coach every year, though with some success.
Newton coached the Pilots fours years and had good winning records every year. He won three tough Defiance County championships, three years in a row, through 1956. He beat a fantastic Blue Creek Comets team, 70-65, then Stryker and Ottawa to get into the 1956 divisional finals against Ney. (They beat Ney 45-40 in the season.)
TWO FOULS SHOTS
The game was tied, 12 seconds to go. Two foul shots were left for Newton’s team to win it. His big center missed both shots. (They could have been in the regionals in Toledo.) Ney hit a quick 7-second jumper.
They say the two foul shots got Charles Newton fired – after six winning seasons of coaching, no losing seasons, five county championships in six years. He took Ayersville to its first divisional finals ever, in 1956 – then they fired him.
Coach Newton was a “coaching phenomenon” – even his baseball teams made it to the regionals, for the Pilots and Latty. The Pilots players liked him – Hohenberger, Hammersmith, Zimmerman, Thompson, Meyers. The Pilots did not like losing their super coach – though Charles Newton made certain it would never happen again. He STOPPED coaching – never to coach again in his lifetime.
Charles G. Newton coaching record: 103 wins 22 losses
He had a coaching record in six years that few coaches would see in a lifetime. They took him away from his junior stars, then the stars won the 1957 Ohio State Basketball Championship, but not with him. It was his year to win at state, a huge coaching opportunity – and we know he was a “winner.”
THE EDUCATION MAN
Ayersville’s loss of Coach Newton was also a loss to Ohio’s high school sports program. Good people cannot be lost so carelessly in sports. It was, however, an enormous contribution to the state’s education system.
Mr. Newton presented his impressive math and financial business resumé to the State of Ohio school systems. They adopted him – parading him through the U.S. Congressmen in Washington D.C. – through public relations, negotiating important programs, in the millions of dollars, for his school systems throughout central Ohio (primarily Blue Creek, Wellington, Huber Heights City and Dayton/Wayne).
U.S. Congressmen recognized him as the “Education Man” that got things done – new schools, buildings, deficits erased, crises reversed, money from Public Law 874, reduced millage, etc. He kept the books in balance with the ability to handle complicated programs and still gave the leadership which brought out the best in a staff of 300-plus.
His success was so impressive to the educational leaders that they literally brought the Dayton newspapers in to cover his progress. They said, “It is the ‘Newton sincerity’ which gets through.” It got through for multi-millions of dollars for as many as 200,000 Ohio students and kids for two decades in the 1960s and ’70s, through 1977.
Such a loss it would have been, had Charles Gordon Newton stayed in sports.
THE NEW CENTURY
Fifty years had passed when I found the phone number to the Newton home in Winchester, Va. The Treeces, Maxine and Ray (the Cheerleader and the Center, they got married) found a 1997 letter from the coach, giving a Virginia address. Then, on June 30, 2010, I called and talked to Marilyn that night for 90 minutes. We caught up.
Charles was good, in for an overnight health check. “He’ll be disappointed he missed you,” she said. “I’ll tell him about our call in the morning.”
Plans were made to send him two Latty yearbooks, 1951 and ’52, plus a story of the ’47 Lions, mentioning his “coaching era.” Also a letter, saying how we Latty people missed him over the 60 years and telling him the ’51 Lions story will be out this season. I would call him, after my mail got to him, in a couple of weeks.
It was set. My mail would’ve reached Charles by Tuesday, July 20. I’d call that afternoon. For the first time in 50 years, I’d talk to my coach again. Just before noon that day, my sister in Ohio called, saying she’d just gotten the Defiance paper. She said a news article, in the form of an obituary, was written. Charles Newton’s picture was on the front page; he had died Sunday, July 18, 2010, two days prior.
I was an hour late for his funeral the next day, but met his family at the church for the luncheon and saw what a marvelous family he and Marilyn had raised.
The first thing, Marilyn told me the mail had arrived, he got the yearbooks, the coaching era story and was told his story would be written. Marilyn said, “He smiled.” I knew it had to be the “sincerity smile” – he had for his friends.
You look over, the pilot in the plane next to you waves. Then his B24 burst into flames, then explodes in front of your eyes – crewman falling, some on fire, the plane is dropping. It becomes a “deadly sky.” How do you forget? It will wake you at night or affect your thinking in day time – it’s a nightmare, capable of destroying your life.
The night before he died, Charles woke Marilyn, saying, “I had the dream again, about getting my crew back home, safe and alive.” She didn’t have to ask; she knew. Veterans have these memories, then come back home to cope with them. Fortunately, her veteran managed it well – and gave so much to America in his years.
The poem below, “Pilots Lives Lost,” will explain in lines, rather than pages.
Charles Gordon Newton was an aw-shucks by-golly type of guy – and he could burn you with sincerity. He closed all his phone calls with a, “Have a good day.” A Grover Hill woman said, “He was the best dressed coach in basketball.” John Englehart quoted, “The worst thing he could say to a player was to call him a ‘codger.’”
He was a teacher of 44 students in Latty when he began in 1949. He was an administrator of 10,000 students in Dayton in 1977, when he retired to Winchester.
His son, Charles Jr., is a heart surgeon, polled as one of the top-two surgeons in New York City, when there. He and wife, Anna, are in Huntsville, Ala.
Daughter Susan traveled Oxford and London before settling, now managing the family antique business in Mahopac, N.Y., with husband, teacher and author Scott Johnson.
There are five grandchildren, who are already fine Americans.
In Memory of Robert I. Simpson, World War II U.S. Army veteran, Jan. 6, 1921-Dec. 4, 2010.
To another of my favorite World War II veterans, a Paulding County favorite son – portraitist, lecturer, marketer, athlete, semi-pro baseball player Gene Scarbrough, Grover Hill, who served on the USS Storm King – AP171 U.S. Navy, Pacific Theater, 1941-45.
Pilots Lives Lost
They didn’t want him to tell
what he had seen,
What he had seen –
he didn’t want us to know.
The hurt they would feel
were wounds for a lifetime.
For his friends, his crewman
lying behind the pilot’s seat,
the others he brought back alive.
He would stare from our study hall window
I knew there was nothing to see
Only too much to remember
World War II
He hid his medals -
to hide his memories.
Yet his home was a place of love.
– Gerald Sinn
Charles Gordon Newton
December 21, 1923 - July 18, 2010
Indeed, God was his co-pilot.
Refs: Book – Deadly Sky: The American Combat Airman of World War II by John McManus
Book – Masters of the Air by Donald L. Miller
Book – Joy of Basketball – Defiance County by Dick Baldwin
Web site: www.15thaf.org
© Gerald Sinn 2011
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